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Black Widow - what happened
Mark and Karen Oliver conceived and created Black Widow storage systems in 1992 when they built their own 4WD drawer system for their family camping and fishing trips in their old MQ Patrol.
It wasn’t long before the word got out and they began building storage systems for friends and then friends of friends. One day at the kids footy one of the other dads saw us sliding out the fridge for a drink and stopped by to see how we did it. He was immediately impressed with the slide and drawers and we later found out he worked at CitiPower.
Mark found himself doing a presentation at CitiPower HQ and after a fleet of CitiPower vehicles were completed we knew we had a business on our hands.
Innovative designers and manufacturers, the Oliver’s Black Widow soon became a household name and enjoyed many years of success and growth.
2012 onwards saw the beginnings of the end when countless Chinese products flooded our market and our then largest customer ARB, decided to also use the Asian made product.
I remember talking to a key ARB man at the time and he said he was ambivalent and it was just business taking work from us and transitioning to Asia. We supported ARB stores for 15 years here in Australia .
We could no longer effectively compete at the size we had grown to. Our products were being copied left, right and centre. We made products for Ironman, TJM, Blackwoods, 1-11 and countless others who were all going down paths of Asian made products.
We did maintain a great network of independent 4WD stores but alas we needed more to survive.
With 58 staff and a hectare of factory and machinery, we were told by our then bank, Westpac, we were being called in even though we never missed a payment. They called it debt to service ratio contract breach. In other words they could see we lost market share and ran scared.
TJM corporation bought our old designs from the administrator of which, the Oliver family did not receive one cent.
The price was the equivalent of 6 days takings. Not much for over 20 years work !! We were devastated by this. The timing was such that we could not viably stay in the game. We missed by that much.
Black Widow drawer systems are now made by Schiavello who are Office furniture manufacturers in Melbourne on behalf of TJM. It is the Oliver families’ understanding that this is a short term arrangement and the production of Black Widow Drawer’s will soon move to Asia.
Update: TJM have stopped manufacture of products with the name Black Widow and have effectively killed it off. That’s a shame.
Black Widow ceased manufacturing by the Oliver’s in January 2015.
The name Black Widow is our Heritage and it is synonymous with us and no one else. We are very upset we no longer use the name because of all the sweat and tears it cost building it. We attended 40 shows a year Australia wide for 10 years getting our products out to the public. Gee it was hard work but we earned it. We will get our name back we hope in the near future.
Our parent company is still called Black Widow RV and we own several business names such as Black Widow 4WD Storage Systems etc that we can and could re-launch.
We have decided though to stay on the path with RV Storage Solutions because, well, it’s in its fifth year now and forging its own History. We are very happy. We do like to tell people about our history in the industry because we are proud of it and will continue to do so.
The upside to this whole affair is that the Oliver’s paid all their staff, suppliers and etc, 100 cents in the dollar. It cost us 4 million dollars and we just about lost everything we had worked for, for all those years.
We can carry our heads high.
RV Storage Solutions is the result, Australian made products, exciting new innovative designs built with our own machinery, by a proud Australian family.
So we are now a small family owned business and doing what we love. Manufacturing and using 4WD products right here in Australia, by Australians for Australians. We now have over 70 dealers Australia wide and this number is growing weekly.
Thanks you to all our friends and supporters and all our new friends and customers we are making daily.
The Oliver Family.